NASA spacecraft provides scientists with 3D view of powerful solar explosionsApril 15th, 2009 - 12:46 pm ICT by ANI
Washington, April 15 (ANI): Twin NASA spacecraft have provided scientists with their first view of the speed, trajectory, and three-dimensional shape of powerful explosions from the sun known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs.
This new capability will dramatically enhance scientists’ ability to predict if and how these solar tsunamis could affect Earth.
When directed toward our planet, these ejections can be breathtakingly beautiful and yet potentially cause damaging effects worldwide.
The brightly colored phenomena known as auroras - more commonly called Northern or Southern Lights - are examples of Earth’s upper atmosphere harmlessly being disturbed by a CME.
However, ejections can produce a form of solar cosmic rays that can be hazardous to spacecraft, astronauts and technology on Earth.
Space weather produces disturbances in electromagnetic fields on Earth that can induce extreme currents in wires, disrupting power lines and causing wide-spread blackouts.
These sun storms can interfere with communications between ground controllers and satellites and with airplane pilots flying near Earth’s poles.
These ejections carry billions of tons of plasma into space at thousands of miles per hour.
This plasma, which carries with it some of the magnetic field from the corona, can create a large, moving disturbance in space that produces a shock wave.
NASA’s twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, spacecraft are providing the unique scientific tool to study these ejections as never before.
Launched in October 2006, STEREO’s nearly identical observatories can make simultaneous observations of these ejections of plasma and magnetic energy that originate from the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona.
The spacecraft are stationed at different vantage points. One leads Earth in its orbit around the sun, while the other trails the planet.
Using three-dimensional observations, solar physicists can examine a CME’s structure, velocity, mass, and direction in the corona while tracking it through interplanetary space.
These measurements can help determine when a CME will reach Earth and predict how much energy it will deliver to our magnetosphere, which is Earth’s protective magnetic shield.
“Before this unique mission, measurements and the subsequent data of a CME observed near the sun had to wait until the ejections arrived at Earth three to seven days later,” said Angelos Vourlidas, a solar physicist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington.
“Now, we can see a CME from the time it leaves the solar surface until it reaches Earth, and we can reconstruct the event in 3D directly from the images,” he added. (ANI)
- NASA spacecraft unravels anatomy of solar tsunami in 3D - Apr 15, 2009
- Physical mechanism behind 'sympathetic flares' on the Sun discovered - Dec 14, 2010
- Cloud exploding from Sun ripples like clouds on Earth - Feb 05, 2011
- Scientists discover tsunami on the Sun - Dec 07, 2009
- Scientists unveil secrets of exploding plasma clouds on Sun - Nov 09, 2010
- Flotilla of spacecraft to give accurate space weather forecasts - Feb 13, 2011
- 33pc of Sun's blasts are 'sneak attacks' that occur without warning - Dec 08, 2010
- NASA's Stereo satellites move either side of Sun - Feb 07, 2011
- NASA releases first ever 360-degree image of the Sun - Feb 07, 2011
- Scientists capture collision of a comet and Sun - May 25, 2010
- 'Solar tsunami' offers new clues about sun - Dec 15, 2010
- NASA instrument shows never-before-seen Sun's innermost corona - Jan 05, 2011
- Images of comet crashing into sun captured - May 25, 2010
- NASA unveils its most advanced space-weather science tool - Feb 24, 2010
- NASA to reveal first views of the entire Sun on super Sun-day - Feb 05, 2011
Tags: airplane pilots, dimensional shape, earth space, electromagnetic fields, ground controllers, magnetic energy, mass ejections, nasa spacecraft, orbit around the sun, outer atmosphere, shock wave, simultaneous observations, solar cosmic rays, solar explosions, solar terrestrial relations observatory, space weather, stereo spacecraft, sun storms, upper atmosphere, vantage points